Thursday, May 29, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 29-June 4, 2014

The Legend of King Naresuan Part V

Seven years after it first made its bow, director MC Chatrichalerm Yukol's lavishly mounted Naresuan epic rumbles to a close with The Legend of King Naresuan Part V: The Great Elephant Battle (ตำนานสมเด็จนเรศวรมหาราช ๕: ยุทธหัตถี, Tamnan Somdej Phra Naresuan Maharaj Ha: Yuthahatthi). It culminates in the 1593 Great Battle of Yuthahatthi, one of the last major battles to use war elephants.

Wanchana Sawasdee, a lieutenant colonel and cavalryman in the Royal Thai Army, stars as Prince Naresuan. Crowned king of Ayutthaya, the former Black Prince faces a challenge from his childhood friend, the wickedly sneering Burmese viceroy prince Phra Maha Upparacha (Napassakorn Mit-em).

Other stars include "Peter" Nopachai Jayanama as Naresuan's long-time friend Lord Ratchamanu, Inthira Charoenpura as a Karen warrior princess and "Aff" Taksaorn Techanarong as Narusuan's long-time sweetheart Maneechan.

There's also Colonel Winthai "Seh Tod" Suwaree of the Royal Thai Army. He was recently the only thing on Thai TV when the military took over, and served long hours as the spokesman, appearing at odd hours to read a new order from the junta. He plays Ekathotsarot, younger brother of Naresuan and eventual successor to the throne.

Coming three years after Naresuan 3 and Naresuan 4, part five faced production delays when a fire destroyed that very footage the whole franchise had been working up to – the elephant battle – forcing the veteran director to remake it. Funding to shoot that elephant battle had initially come from the Culture Ministry's Strong Thailand fund back in 2010 – originally meant to be 100 million baht – half the film-funding initiative's budget – but cut to around 46 million baht after other filmmakers protested.

It's rated G

Also opening

The Raid 2: Berandal – Indonesia's martial-arts action franchise barrels on, sending rookie policeman Ram (Iko Uwais) on an undercover assignment in prison, where he's tasked with infiltrating a Jakarta crime syndicate. Director Gareth Evans sequelizes the sequel, adding car chases, more fights and more sinister characters – look out for assassins Hammer Girl and Baseball Bat Man. It was a huge hit at Sundance and critical reception  is mostly positive. Action fans have been practically hyperventilating over it. It's at Major Cineplex only, and looks like it's Thai-dubbed with English subtitles. Rated 18+

Le Week-End – Jim Broadbent and Lindsay Duncan star as a long-married English couple who revisit Paris for the first time since their honeymoon in hopes of rekindling romance. Jeff Goldblum also stars, playing an egotistical American professor living in Paris. Roger Michell (Hyde Park on Hudson, Notting Hill) directs. A nominee for five British Independent Film Awards, and winner of the best actress prize for Duncan, critical reception is mostly positive – perhaps a pleasant diversion for gentle souls seeking something other than a Thai historical battle epic or an Indonesian martial-arts film. It's Apex Siam Square, House, Paragon and CentralWorld. Rated 13+

Island of Lemurs: Madagascar
– Morgan Freeman narrates this short live-action documentary. Nothing to do with the DreamWorks animated series, this chronicles the efforts of a scientist as she works to protect the unique and highly evolved primate species that only lives on the island off Africa. Running just under 40 minutes, it's in 3D at IMAX. Rated G

Heropanti – It's star-crossed romance for two young lovers – a girl named Dimpy who has a strict and stern father, and a guy named Bablu who fights for her love. Kriti Sanon and Tiger Shroff star, making their film debut. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Also showing

Movies on Design – The film program of the Bangkok Design Festival wraps up today with two entries, Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present, about the artist who staged an "interactive performance" in 2010 at New York's Museum of Modern Art at 4.15pm and From Nothing, Something: A Documentary on the Creative Process at 6.30pm, followed by a talk. Tickets are 180 baht. More details at the fest's Facebook page.

European Union Film Festival – Evening shows for the fest at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld were shifted to around a half hour earlier in keeping with the old 10am-5am curfew. Hopefully they won't change the times again now that curfew isn't until midnight. Here's the remaining line-up through June 5:

  • Russian Dolls – The second of French director Cedric Klapisch's trilogy of breezy romantic comedies that started with The Spanish Apartment, Russian Dolls catches up with Xavier (Romain Duris) and his old cohorts from Barcelona five years later. Lucy Gordon, Kelly Reilly, Audrey Tautou and Cécile De France also star. 6.30 tonight.
  • Chinese Puzzle – The newest and final entry in Cedric Klapisch's rom-com trilogy follows Frenchman Xavier (Romain Duris) to New York where he's still trying to figure things out as he visits old friends. Take note: This will get a limited commercial release in Bangkok on June 19. 6.30pm tomorrow.
  • A Royal Affair –  Alicia Vikander and Mads Mikkelsen star in this costume-drama account of the relationship between Princess Caroline Matilda and the royal physician to Denmark's mentally ill King Christian VII. 4pm on Saturday.
  • Jose and Pilar – Portuguese Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago and his resolute wife Pilar del Rio are profiled in this 2010 documentary. 6.30pm on Saturday.
  • The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza) – Italian auteur Paolo Sorrentino directs his leading man Toni Servillo through this Fellini-like escapade, following an ageing socialite as he walks through the streets and ruins of Rome following celebrations for his 65th birthday. One of the top films of 2013 of many critics, it won the foreign-language prizes at the Academy Awards, the Golden Globes and the BAFTAs. 4pm on Sunday.
  • A Hijacking – The takeover of a cargo vessel by Somali pirates is experienced by crewmembers while back at the ship owner's offices in Copenhagen, a stand-off unfolds as the ransom is negotiated. 6.45pm on Sunday.
  • The Symmetry of the Butterfly – From Luxembourg, this multi-layered comedy has a writer living in a retirement home who uses the people around him as inspirations for his stories. 6.30pm on Monday.
  • The Gang of Oss – Authorities try to break the influence of criminal gangs on a Netherlands' industrial town in the 1930s. 6.30pm on Tuesday.
  • Walking Too Fast – Set in 1982, this Cold War thriller is about a secret police lieutenant who starts to have doubts about his line of work. 6.30pm on Wednesday.
  • Finsterworld – Various quirky characters come together in this drama, the first by documentarian Frauke Finsterwalder, that aims to explore the German psyche. 6.30pm next Thursday.

Tickets are handed out 30 minutes before showtime, but the queues start forming before that. Enjoy. All films will be screened in their original languages with English subtitles. Some films will also have Thai subtitles. Check the schedule at or see

The Friese-Greene Club – Tonight's final boarding-school story for May is Yuang Zhang's Little Red Flowers, about the struggles of a little boy in regimented post-revolutionary China. Tomorrow night's big-screen feast is Sergio Leone's spaghetti western masterwork, Once Upon a Time in the West. And May closes out on Saturday with the troubled-youth tale Melissa P. It's an erotic drama based on a Sicilian teenager's diary. The club will be hold a private event on Sunday, so keep out. The June schedule kicks off on Wednesday with Red Sorghum, the debut by Chinese film great Zhang Yimou. Other highlights in June include films on democracy (or lack thereof), censorship (or lack thereof), notable films celebrating anniversaries and the club's own first-year anniversary party on June 28, with an encore screening of the first film shown, Blade Runner. Shows are back to 8pm (7 during the old curfew). The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so reservations aren't a bad idea. For details, check the website and Facebook page.

Bangkok Open Air Cinema Club – A new movie series, set for the last Saturday each month, makes its debut this week at The Hive Rooftop Bar with Star Wars. This is the original 1977 film that started it all. The show's at 7.30pm. Tickets are 300 baht and include a pair of complimentary drinks, beer or prosecco, and unlimited popcorn. Check the website for details on making reservations. The venue is a newly opened five-floor members-only "co-working" space at 46/9 Sukhumvit Soi 49.

Kafka Festival in Bangkok – The embassies of Germany, Austria, Switzerland and the Czech Republic and the Goethe-Institut Thailand are hosting a three-day festival to remember writer Franz Kafka on the 90th anniversary of his death. Events will include lectures, performances and films. The screenings are Michael Haneke's 1997 adaptation of Kafka's Das Schloß (The Castle) at 6pm on June 4 and the 1965 Czech short Postava k podpírání (Joseph Kilian) and the 2006 documentary Who Was Kafka? It's all at the Goethe-Institut off Sathorn Soi 1. Check the website for details.

Take note

Just hours after last week's update went online here, the Thai military, led by General Prayuth Chan-ocha, upgraded its declaration of martial law (and not a coup) to a full-scale seizure of the government.

A curfew was imposed, running from 10pm to 5am, but that was relaxed starting yesterday, so now we're under lockdown from only midnight to 4am.

Though Taylor Swift has canceled her sold-out concert here – uselessly announced on the very day the curfew was relaxed – most film events, including the EU Film Fest, have soldiered on with only a few minor changes in their schedules.

However, one exception was the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand's planned screening of Michael Winterbottom's Trishna last Monday. It will be rescheduled.

Free film screenings aren't happening in June at the Alliance Française, but that doesn't have anything to do with the curfew or the government situation – it's because there's the annual French cultural fest La Fête, from June 4 to July 6 at various venues.

Meanwhile, there's yet another film festival coming up, the weirdly named Bangkok International Digital Content and Movie Festival, or BIC.Mov.Fest for short, from July 3 to 6 at Siam Paragon. Backed by the Federation of National Film Associations of Thailand, the Culture Ministry, the Commerce Ministry, the Tourism and Sport Ministry and other concerned agencies, it is being positioned as a successor to the long-defunct and scandal-plagued Bangkok International Film Festival. It will offer workshops, seminars and other events to highlight not just the film industry, but also television, video games, animation, character licensing, software and apps. Expect a red carpet to be rolled out at some point. The film selection will likely include a fixture of the old BKKIFF, the "Thai Panorama" of notable and mainstream Thai films of the past year or so.

Just remember, there's the 12th World Film Festival of Bangkok – a real, honest-to-goodness film festival that keeps the focus on films. It's set for October 17 to 26.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 22-28, 2014

X-Men: Days of Future Past

The comic-book onslaught continues as Fox's X-Men franchises converge in X-Men: Days of Future Past, with the stars of the original 2000-2006 film trilogy sharing the screen with the mutant superheroes of the 2011 reboot X-Men: First Class.

Rivalling Disney's Marvel Studios' own juggernaut The Avengers for sheer star power, it's a cast stuffed with Shakespearian-trained talent – Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan as friends-turned-enemies Professor Charles Xavier and Magneto, played in their younger days by a pair of other figures from the stage and arthouse screen – James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender.

Also returning is Hugh Jackman as Logan, a.k.a. Wolverine – he had a hilarious cameo in First Class. Here, with just raw bones for claws now, he's front and center, tasked by Professor X (Stewart) with going back in time to the 1970s to stop a chain of events that led to the creation of the Sentinels – unstoppable killer robots.

For help, Logan has to work with the younger Xavier, a powerful telepath who is a broken man following the events of First Class, in which his lifelong friend, the blue-skinned shape-shifting Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) left him and his other good friend Magneto betrayed him. But they need metal-bending Magneto, who is held in a super-max prison inside the Pentagon.

Others taking part include Halle Berry as Storm, Ellen Page as Kitty Pryde, Anna Paquin as Rogue, Nicholas Hoult as the Beast and Fan Bingbing as the teleporting mutant Blink. Original trilogy stars Kelsey Grammer, James Marsden and Famke Jansen also turn up. New to the franchise is Game of Thrones star Peter Dinklage, portraying Dr. Bolivar Trask, the scientist who created the Sentinels.

Back in the director's chair is Bryan Singer, who helmed 2000's X-Men and the 2003 sequel X2 and has guided the franchise as producer all along. The movie's release comes as he's fighting a scandal in Hollywood.

Writers include Matthew Vaughn, the British producer-director of Kick-Ass and First Class, and Simon Kinberg, whose credits also include the upcoming Fantastic Four reboot and Star Wars: Episode VII.

Critical reception is wildly positive, making Days of Future Past one of the strongest in the X-Men franchise.

As has become the norm with Marvel Comic movies, there's a post-credits scene, so stick around as all the special-effects names roll by.

It's in real 3D in some cinemas, including IMAX and IMAX Digital. Rated G

Also opening

Rob the Mob – Young husband-and-wife hoodlums plan a caper to take revenge on the New York mob in this fact-based crime-comedy starring Michael Pitt (Boardwalk Empire) and Nina Ariana. Andy Garcia, Ray Romano, Aida Turturro, Frank Whaley and Griffin Dunne also star. Critical reception is mostly positive – a pleasant surprise. Rated 15+

Draft Day – Kevin Costner, enjoying a career resurgence at the moment, is back doing what he does best – sports movies. The star of Field of DreamsBull Durham (baseball), Tin Cup (golf) and Waterworld (sailing), turns to the gridiron in this comedy-drama that takes place on one of the biggest days for American professional football – the NFL draft – in which a flurry of deals are made for college players. Costner is the manager of the Cleveland Browns, and has to make difficult personal and professional choices as he ponders what to do with the No. 1 draft pick. Jennifer Garner also stars. Ivan Reitman, better known for his comedies like Ghostbusters, directs. Critical reception is mixed, leaning to positive. Rated 15+

The Quiet Ones – Hammer Films, the British studio that made classic B-movie horrors from the 1950s through the '70s, was revived a few years back, and has brought us such new B-movie thrillers as The Woman in Black and the Let the Right One In remake Let Me In. The Quiet Ones has a former Oxford professor (Jared Harris from Mad Men) conducting experiments on a young woman who is possessed by dark forces. Sam Claflin and Olivia Cooke also star. Critical reception is mixed. Rated 15+

Kochadaiiyaan – India's first motion-capture animated feature tells the historical tale of good and evil, featuring South Indian megastar Rajinikanth performing and voicing three roles. The story involves a warrior who returns to his homeland to avenge the death of his father, who was unjustly put to death by the king. Deepika Padukone also stars, performing her own stunts. With music by Oscar-winning film-score composer A.R. Rahman, it's directed by Rajinikanth's daughter, Soundarya R. Ashwin. It was made using the performance-capture technique that was used for such films as Avatar, Tintin and for certain characters in the Lord of the Rings, Planet of the Apes, and yes, Godzilla! It's a first for India. It's also getting a huge debut, delayed a week, so that it could be released across the subcontinent and worldwide in nine languages. For Thailand, it's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Paragon and Major Cineplex Sukhumvit (Ekamai), Rama III and Pattaya. And, it'll be in 2D only, so you can leave your 3D glasses at home. Opens Friday.

Also showing

Movies on Design – Part of the Bangkok Design Festival, Movies on Design actually started on Tuesday at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, but it seems nobody bothered to say anything about it until Monday. The fest, continuing until next Thursday, features documentaries about architecture, art and design. Here's the lineup:
  • Life Architecturally – A profile of Australian architect Robert McBride and his wife, interior designer Debbie Ryan. 2.30 today and 7.45pm on May 28.
  • Diller Scofidio + Renfro: Reimagining Lincoln Center and the High Line – Meet the minds behind the expansion of the New York's premiere performing-arts center and the innovative renovation of a derelict Manhattan elevated railway into a landmark new public park. 4.45pm today and 7pm on May 27 with a talk.
  • Cartoon College – A look at American comic culture, with visits to comic-book stores, museums and conventions and talks with such cartoonists as Lynda Barry, Charles Burns, Art Spiegelman and Chris Ware. 5pm on May 28 with a talk.
  • Marina Abramovic: The Artist is Present – A profile of the artist who staged an "interactive performance" in 2010 at New York's Museum of Modern Art. 6 tonight with a talk and 4.15pm on May 29.
  • From Nothing, Something: A Documentary on the Creative Process – A series of profiles on creators from different backgrounds, including a novelist, a musician, a designer of movie creatures, chefs, an architect and cancer researchers. 5.15pm on May 27 and 6.30pm on May 29 with a talk.
Tickets are not free! Prices start at 180 baht and they may be purchased at various venues. Check The Nation for details.

European Union Film Festival – Oh joy! It's another of Bangkok's wonderful free film festivals! Get ready to queue up for an hour or more to get those precious little tickets, which they start doling out 30 minutes before showtime. Running from tomorrow until June 5 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, here's this week's lineup:
  • Come As You Are – Three disabled Belgian men want to go to a high-end Spanish bordello. 7pm tomorrow.
  • The Angels' Share – Taking its title from the industry phrase for the booze that evaporates during distilling, Ken Loach's 2012 Cannes Jury Prize winner is about four young Scottish lawbreakers doing community service who turn their lives around when they discover a high-end brand of whiskey. 2.45pm on Saturday.
  • Heavy Girls – Two German men – a young man who lives with his dementia-suffering mother and her caretaker – develop an unexpected queer bond. 4.30pm on Saturday.
  • The Exam – In 1950s Budapest, a young intelligence officer is put through his paces by a mentor. 7pm on Saturday.
  • Lilet Never Happened – In Manila, a Dutch social worker tries in vain to improve the life of a maladjusted Filipina child prostitute. 2.30pm on Sunday.
  • Revival – Smoke, a 1960s band that was known as the "Czech Beatles", reunites for a comeback tour. 4.30pm on Sunday.
  • Walesa: Man of Hope – Veteran Polish helmer Andrzej Wajda directs this biopic about a shipyard electrician who founded a dissident labour movement that brought a peaceful end to communism in Poland. 7pm on Sunday.
  • The Pelayos (Winning Streak) – An oddball collection of Spaniards think they've figured out how to beat the roulette wheel at a casino run by a figure known as the Beast. 7pm on Monday.
  • Palme – The life and times of slain Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme is recalled in this documentary. 7pm on Tuesday.
  • The Spanish Apartment (L’auberge Espagnole) – A young Frenchmen (Romain Duris) moves into a Barcelona flat with group of colorful roomies from all over. Kelly Reilly, Audrey Tautou and Cecile de France also star. Directed by Cedric Klapisch, this is the first of a rom-com trilogy that was followed by Russian Dolls and Chinese Puzzle, each screening on consecutive nights next week, starting at 7 on Wednesday.
All films will be screened in their original languages with English subtitles. Some films will also have Thai subtitles. Hit the following link to download the schedule or check it at For more information, see

The Friese-Greene Club – Last Saturday's "troubled youth" show ended up being SubUrbia, a 1996 dark comedy by Slackers director Richard Linklater, and not the 1983 gutterpunk drama Suburbia by Penelope Spheeris, as advertised. Linkater's is also a "troubled youth" movie, more in the spirit of Dazed and Confused, and is flat-out hilarious. I'd never seen it before. So no harm, no foul. Keep an eye out for Spheeris' film to be rescheduled. Tonight's show is Flirting, a 1991 Australian boarding-school drama starring Noah Taylor as a boy who enters into a star-crossed romance with Thandie Newton. Nicole Kidman also stars as a sexually repressed student. Tomorrow's big-screen spectacle is Spielberg's sci-fi freak-out Close Encounters of the Third Kind. On Saturday, stay gold with the "troubled youth" selection – Francis Ford Coppola's teen drama The Outsiders, starring the bratpack of Tom Cruise, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Matt Dillon, C. Thomas Howell and Ralph Macchio. Sunday is Billy Wilder's original Sabrina, a romantic comedy starring Humphrey Bogart, William Holden and Audrey Hepburn. Next Wednesday, all you need is this paddle game ... the ashtray, the paddle game, and the remote control, and that's all you need ... and these matches ... and this chair ... it's Steve Martin in the great American comedy The Jerk. Shows start at 8. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so reservations are a good idea. There are sometimes additions and changes in the schedule, so please check the website and Facebook page for updates.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – For his 2011 drama Trishna, stylish director Michael Winterbottom adapts the classic novel Tess of the d'Urbervilles, and ports the setting of the star-crossed romance to Rajasthan, India, where the scion of a wealthy British-Indian family falls for a shy local lass who works in the family's hotel. Riz Ahmed and Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) star. Supported by the British Council, the screening will feature Fullers London Pride beer, fish, chips and British Ambassador Mark Kent. The show is at 7pm – not 8pm as they have been in the past – on Monday, May 26 at the FCCT. Admission is 150 baht for non-members plus 100 baht more for the brew and snacks.

Alliance Française – The relationship between pioneering 19th-century neurologist Dr. Jean-Martin Charcot and his star teenage patient is examined Augustine, a 2012 historical drama by Alice Winocour. Vincent Lindon and Soko star. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, May 28.

Take note

Now comes the news from Moveedoo: The House website is back!

And those were the cheers of everyone who dislikes Facebook, which was where House's showtimes were listed for the past while, and sometimes hard to access. But somehow the new website design looks familiar. Navigate it by immediately hauling your mouse/finger down, and there is everything in all its heavenly glory.

Bangkok residents awoke to news early Tuesday morning that martial law had been declared by the Thai military. Revealing a little-known codicil in the constitution that gives the army power to preserve order in time of emergency, they aren't calling it a coup, and the "caretaker" government, left toothless by Constitutional Court rulings, is supposedly still in place.

On the surface, the move by the Army is aimed at containing protests by both the Thaksin-leaning red-shirts and the anti-Thaksin folk led by Suthep Thaugsuban.

There is no curfew for now. The military have a presence in certain areas, which includes media outlets. Folks are complaining about traffic. In other words, just another week in Bangkok.

There's an upcoming event to mention, the Kafka-Festival at the Goethe-Institut, screening three Kafka-related films there from June 3 to 5, 1997's The Castle by Michael Haneke, a 1960 Czech film Joseph Kilian by Pavel Jurácěk and Jan Schmidt and 2006's Who was Kafka? by Richard Dindo.

Also, Thai Aurora at the Horizon, in which a collection of new politically themed and somehow-still-relevant short films by young Thai directors will be screened on Sunday, June 15, at TK Park at CentralWorld. The show starts at 2pm.

Monday, May 19, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene special: European Union Film Festival, May 23-June 5, 2014

An Oscar-winning drama and more award-winners are lined up for this year's edition of the European Union Film Festival. With 20 films from 14 countries, highlights include Italy’s The Great Beauty, which swept the foreign-language categories at this year’s Academy Awards, the Golden Globes and the Baftas.

In Bangkok, the fest runs from May 23 to June 5 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. The festival then moves to Chiang Mai and later Khon Kaen.

The opener is Come As You Are (Hasta La Vista!), a 2011 Belgian comedy about three disabled young men who want to lose their virginity. They set out to visit a luxury bordello in Spain that caters to special-needs clients. Directed by Geoffrey Enthoven, it won the grand prize at the Montreal World Film Festival.

Ken Loach directs the Scottish comedy The Angels’ Share, starring Paul Brannigan as a young Glaswegian hoodlum who narrowly avoids jail. Sentenced to community service, he undertakes a new direction in life after visiting a whiskey distillery. It won a jury prize at the Cannes Film Festival in 2012.

A young man who lives with his dementia-addled mother develops an unexpected bond with her caretaker in the 2012 German romantic comedy Heavy Girls (Dicke Madchen). It won awards at Slamdance and the Hamburg Lesbian and Gay Film Festival.

From Hungary, the Cold War-era spy thriller The Exam follows a young defence officer in 1950s Budapest as his mentor tests his loyalty. The second feature by Peter Bergendy, it won the Gold Hugo in the New Directors Competition at the 2012 Chicago film fest.

The Cold War era is also revisited in the 2009 Czech drama Walking Too Fast (Pouta). Set in 1982, the slow-burn political thriller is about a lieutenant of the secret police who begins having second thoughts about his line of work. It won five Czech Lions, including best film, best actor for Ondrej Maly and best director for Radim Spacek.

The “Czech Beatles” reunite in the 2013 comedy Revival. Written and directed by Alice Nellis, it follows the ageing musicians from the 1960s rock band Smoke as they attempt a comeback tour. It was nominated for seven Czech Lions and won the audience award at last year’s Karlovy Vary International Film Festival.

Manila is the setting for a Netherlands entry, Lilet Never Happened, about a maladjusted Filipina child prostitute. A Dutch social worker tries to turn the girl’s life around. Garnering positive reviews, Lilet has won awards at various children’s film festivals.

Also from the Netherlands is The Gang of Oss. Set in the 1930s, the crime drama has authorities seeking to end criminal gangs’ stranglehold on the southern Netherlands’ industrial town of Oss.

Veteran Polish helmer Andrzej Wajda directs Walesa: Man of Hope, a biographical drama charting Nobel Prize laureate Lech Walesa’s rise from shipyard electrician to the founding of Solidarity, the dissident political movement that brought about a peaceful revolution against communism. The film won awards at festivals in Chicago, Palm Springs and Venice, including best actor for Robert Wieckiewicz and best actress for Maria Rosaria Omaggio, who portrays Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci.

A Swedish national figure is the subject of the documentary Palme, on the life and times of prime minister Olof Palme, whose assassination on the streets of Stockholm in 1986 changed the country forever.

Denmark offers the lavish historical drama A Royal Affair, set in the 18th-century court of the mentally ill King Christian VII, whose wife Princess Caroline Matilda had an affair with royal physician Johann Friedrich Struensee. Alicia Vikander and Mads Mikkelsen star. It was a foreign-language nominee for both the Academy Awards and the Golden Globes this year.

Portugal has a look at Nobel Prize-winning author Jose Saramago in the 2010 documentary Jose and Pilar, following his last years and his relationship with his resolute wife, Pilar del Rio.

From France comes a trilogy of hit comedies by director Cedric Klapisch – 2002’s The Spanish Apartment (L’auberge Espagnole), the 2004 sequel Russian Dolls and this year’s third chapter, Chinese Puzzle. In Spanish Apartment, a strait-laced French student (Romain Duris) moves into a Barcelona apartment with six other roomies from all over Europe. Russian Dolls fast-forwards to five years later, and Chinese Puzzle, which will have a limited theatrical release in Bangkok on June 29, has them in New York City, still trying to figure out their lives. Kelly Reilly, Audrey Tautou and Cecile de France also star.

Spaniards try to beat a casino run by a figure called “the Beast” in The Pelayos (Winning Streak
This year’s winner of the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film is The Great Beauty (La Grande Bellezza), the latest opus from celebrated director Paolo Sorrentino. Starring Sorrentino’s usual leading man Toni Servillo, it follows an ageing socialite as he walks through the ruins and city streets of Rome following a party for his 65th birthday, reflecting on his life and his first love. Also the winner of the Golden Globe and British Film Academy Award for foreign features, The Great Beauty was on many critics’ top 10 lists of 2013’s best films.

Before last year’s high-seas drama Captain Phillips, there was the 2012 Danish thriller A Hijacking, in which Somali pirates raid a cargo ship and hold the crew for ransom. Meanwhile back in Copenhagen, the shipping company’s CEO enters into tense negotiations.

Luxembourg chips in with D’Symmetrie vum Paiperlek (The Butterfly’s Symmetry), a multi-layered comedy in which a writer living in a retirement home uses the people around him as inspirations for his stories. Among them is the tale of a misogynistic chess master who wants revenge after a young woman beats him in a match.

The Bangkok edition of the fest closes with Finsterworld, the fiction debut by German documentary director Frauke Finsterwalder. Exploring the German psyche, it has a dozen characters in gradually interconnected storylines. They include a pedicurist, three generations of a family, a documentary maker and her policeman boyfriend who is secretly likes to dress up in animal costumes.

The European Union Film Festival runs from May 23 to June 5 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld, Bangkok, June 13 to 22 at SFX Maya, Chiang Mai and June 27 to 29 at SF Cinema City, CentralPlaza Khon Kaen.

Tickets are free and will be available 30 minutes before the show – first come first serve, maximum two tickets per person per screening. This is a very popular festival, especially among thrifty retirees and bargain-hunting young film enthusiasts, so if you want to ensure you have a decent seat, be prepared to queue up – the lines often start forming an hour or two beforehand.

All films will be screened in their original languages with English subtitles. Some films will also have Thai subtitles.

Hit the following link to download the schedule or check it at For more information, see

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 15-21, 2014


Purists – mainly in Japan – have been critical of the new Godzilla even before it was released. This new Godzilla is too fat, they say. Director Gareth Edwards, is just shrugging it off, saying Godzilla is "big-boned".

This is a reboot of the long-running kaiju franchise, about a giant, atomic-fire-breathing prehistoric lizard, awakened and mutated by mankind's meddling with nuclear technology.

Edwards, a British filmmaker, made his mark with the well-regarded moody sci-fi thriller Monsters, which was about large aliens walking the Earth – aliens you don't really see until the director is good and ready to show them to you.

Like Monsters, the focus is more on people, rather than giant critters. The setting delves into the monsters' origins, which were then covered up in Japan in the 1950s. Later, an earthquake caused an accident at a nuclear power plant in Japan. One young man, an American naval officer (Aaron Taylor-Johnson from Kick-Ass), believes there's been a conspiracy. Meanwhile, the guy's father (Bryan Cranston from Breaking Bad) has uncovered evidence that may lead to something big.

Elizabeth Olsen, Ken Watanabe, David Straithairn and Sally Hawkins also star.

Critical reception is mixed, but is certainly way more positive than Hollywood's lame 1998 first take on the revered Japanese franchise. Rated G

Also opening

Enemy – Jake Gyllenhaal is a sad man who takes no interest in anything in life. Even having a beautiful girlfriend (Mélanie Laurent) isn't enough to snap him out of his sorry state. But he perks up when he spots an actor in a movie who looks just like him. Based on a 2002 novel José Saramago, O Homem Duplicado (The Double), this thriller is directed by Denis Villeneuve, who previously worked with Gyllenhaal in Prisoners – a thriller that I found infuriatingly pretentious. Safe to say I'll be giving this a miss – the premise alone has me running very far away. But critics are generally positive, so perhaps you'll enjoy this more than I will. Rated 15+

Haunt – After moving into an old house with his family, a teenage boy begins experiencing paranormal activity. He enlists the help of a neighbor girl to investigate. They find a box that allows them to communicate with the dead. Harrison Gilbertson, Liana Liberato and Jacki Weaver star. This had a limited release in the States last year and was later offered as video-on-demand. However, critics don't really demand you see it. Rated 15+

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – I somehow got my wires crossed when looking at the schedule last week, and jumped the gun – The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie screens tonight, not last Thursday as I thought. I guess it was the idea of a young Maggie Smith that got me all excited. Tomorrow, the must-see-on-the-big-screen selection is Terrence Malick's painterly debut, Badlands, following Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek on a cross-country crime spree. On Saturday, the "troubled youth" movie is Suburbia, Penelope Spheeris' look at street punks. It was why she got hired to direct Wayne's World. And on Sunday, Audrey Hepburn is in a terrifying situation in Wait Until Dark – she's a blind woman terrorized by a home invader. And next Wednesday is National Lampoon's European Vacation – not the best of the Vacation movies, but still a "great American comedy". Shows start at 8. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so reservations are a must. There are sometimes additions and changes in the schedule, so please check the website and Facebook page for updates.

Learning Through Asean – Indonesian Movies – The second part of a double-bill program at the Thai Film Archive opens at 1 on Saturday with Postcards from the Zoo, a surreal comedy by Indonesian indie director Edwin. It's about an orphan girl (Ladya Cheryl) who grows up in a zoo, working various odd jobs. She then takes up a with an itinerant cowboy magician (Nicolas Saputra). It competed for the Golden Bear at the Berlin fest in 2012. That's followed at 3 with a selection of Edwin's short films and then a talk with the director and his producer Meiske Taurisa.

Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand – Films are back with a vengeance at the FCCT, which kicks off a double-bill of Monday night screenings next week. First up is La Petite Chambre, a 2011 Swiss drama about a bitter widower who fights being moved into a nursing home. So he's saddled with a caregiver, a young woman who is just as stubborn and bitter as he is. It was Switzerland's Oscar submission. Swiss Ambassador Christine Schraner Burgener is laying on wine, snacks and cheese. The show is at 7pm – not 8pm as they have been in the past. Admission is 150 baht for non-members plus 100 baht more if you want to eat or drink. The next screening is on May 26, with Michael Winterbottom's India-set romance Trishna, with support from the British Embassy.

Alliance Française – Tragedy strikes a young family in Australia when the father dies in L'Arbe (The Tree). One of the daughters, an 8-year-old-girl, believes her father's spirit lives in the gigantic fig tree that grows in their yard, and it is so big, it threatens to topple over and crush their house. Charlotte Gainsbourg stars and Julie Bertuccelli directs. It's in French with English subtitles at 7pm on Wednesday, May 21.

Take note

The European Union Film Festival runs from May 23 to June 5 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. I'll make a special posting about it in a day or so.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 8-14, 2014

Village of Hope

Thai indie filmmaker Boonsong "Sueb" Nakphoo tells hardscrabble stories of contemporary rural life, enlisting his family members, friends and neighbors in his native rural Sukhothai Province to help him make his low-budget movies. It's a portrait of folks who have been surpassed by society, and they are out of step with the increasingly urbanized, digitized, plastic-coated modern Thailand.

Boonsong's latest feature is the ironically titled Village of Hope (วังพิกุล, Wangphikul), which is a sequel to his 2010 effort Poor People the Great.

In between those two films, Boonsong did the ambitious Four Stations, a 2012 compilation of four short stories by noted Thai authors. It won a jury prize at last year's Deauville Asian Film Festival.

With Village of Hope, which premiered at last year's Mumbai Film Festival, Boonsong further hones his craft, presenting the succinct tale in black and white. The story follows Sorn, a somber young soldier on leave who returns home. He feels ill-at-ease as he reaquaints himself to the village’s slow pace and the struggles of his impoverished relatives, who all live in a tight-knit collection of rustic wooden houses. Boyhood has slipped away and the reality of adulthood is looming for young Sorn.

Village of Hope screens at 6.30 nightly until Wednesday, May 14 at the Lido in Siam Square, with post-screening talks by the director and his crew.

By the River

It's a big week for Thai indie cinema, with two interesting films in limited release.

Along with Village of Hope, there's By the River (สายน้ำติดเชื้อ, Sai Nam Tid Shoer). Directed by Nontawat Numbenchapol, who follows up his Thai-Cambodian border doc Boundary, By the River looks at the hardships in a remote Karen village in Kanchanaburi where lead mining has contaminated the creek that used to be the community's lifeblood.

Concentrating mainly on the villagers, the film only briefly refers to the legal wrangling over the Klity Creek case, which stretched on for more than a decade. Though a verdict last year ordered a clean-up, it's going to be a massive effort, covering some 19 kilometers of waterway. It doesn't seem like the damage will ever be truly undone. Meanwhile, how will the villagers survive?

Nontawat recently returned to the village to stage a special outdoor screening for the residents.

Worth mentioning at this point is an effort to bring clean water to the village being undertaken by the Enlawthai Foundation.

By the River won a special mention at last year’s Locarno Film Festival and also screened at the 11th World Film Festival of Bangkok. It's been picked up by the new Thai indie outfit Mosquito Films Distribution and was part of the recent ChopShots festival in Jakarta.

Shows are scheduled to be at 4 and 8 daily (approximately) at SFW CentralWorld and SFX Maya Chiang Mai. Rated G.

Also opening

13 Sins – Eight years have gone by since there was word of a Hollywood remake of the 2006 Thai thriller 13 Beloved. The slick, tension-filled drama had a down-on-his luck salesman receiving a series of mysterious phone calls promising him increasing rewards for completing 13 increasingly sinister and dangerous tasks. Also called 13 Game Sayong and 13: Game of Death, the original film was directed by Chookiat Sakveerakul and was based on a comic by Eakasit Thairatana. Daniel Stamm (The Last Exorcism) directs this new version, which at one time bore the title Angry Little God. Mark Webber stars as the salesman, with Devon Graye, Tom Bower, Rutina Wesley, Pruit Taylor Vince and Ron Perlman. Critical reception is mixed, with a few surprisingly kind reviews. I wonder if they ever saw the original? Rated 18+

Bad Neighbours – Seth Rogen and Rose Byrne are a young couple with a new baby. They look forward to settling into adulthood in in their dream home in a quiet residential neighborhood, but their plans are disrupted when an unruly fraternity moves in next door. An escalating war between the neighbors looks to spiral out of control. Zac Efron also stars, playing the lead frat boy. Nick Stoller (Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Get Him to the Greek) directs. Critical reception for this raunchy comedy is actually pretty positive. Rated 18+

Oculus – After a young man is released from jail for the murder of his parents, he teams up with his sister to take down the real killer – a supernatural force unleashed through an antique mirror from their childhood home. Brenton Thwaites and Karen Gillan star. Critical reception is generally positive. This opened in sneak previews last week and now moves to a wide release. Rated 15+

Spirits War (ไพรดิบ, Prai Dib) – In this fantasy, spirit hunter Prai (Akara Amarttayakul) stops to rest in a forest near an abandoned mine and comes under attack. He is soon rescued by another spirit hunter, Paratee, but then she is taken prisoner by an evil priest. Pisut Praesangeam, who earlier this year did She Devil (รักเราเขย่าขวัญ, Rak Rao Khayao Khwan) and the 2008 comedy Super Hap, directs. Rated 15+

Also showing

The Friese-Greene Club – Maggie Smith won an Oscar for her portrayal of a radical girls' boarding-school teacher in 1969's The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, screening tonight. Tomorrow, open those pod-bay doors and check out the big-screen must-see spectacle of Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey. On Saturday, it's Brian DePalma's Carrie, which is among this month's crop of "troubled youth" movies. It was originally scheduled to screen during an earlier "troubled youth" series at the club but was pulled due to a last-minute schedule change. Sunday's Audrey Hepburn showcase is 1953's Roman Holiday. And next Wednesday, perhaps have a pizza delivered to your seat while you are watching another classic American comedy – Fast Times at Ridgemont High. Shows start at 8. The FGC is down an alley next to the Queen's Park Imperial Hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 22. With just nine seats, the screening room fills up fast, so reservations are a must. There are sometimes additions and changes in the schedule, so please check the website and Facebook page for updates.

Learning through Asean – Indonesian movies – Films by celebrated Indonesian independent director Edwin will be screened this Saturday and next at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom. This Saturday at 3pm is his surreal comedy Blind Pig Who Wants to Fly, which comments on the serious issues surrounding race and Chinese ethnicity in Indonesia. Among the offbeat characters is a singing dentist who warbles Stevie Wonder's song "I Just Called to Say I Love You". From 2008, it competed in several film festivals, winning prizes in Nantes, Rotterdam, Singapore and the Golden Horse fest. Next Saturday, May 17, starting at 1pm, is the also-surreal Postcards from the Zoo, a comedy-drama about an orphan girl who grows up in a zoo, where she is raised by the giraffe keeper and works odd jobs to earn her keep. She then takes up with an itinerant cowboy magician. That's followed at 3pm with short films by Edwin and then a talk with the director and his producer Meiske Taurisia.

German Film Series – A young family copes with impending death when the father is diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor in the 2011 drama Stopped on Track (Halt auf freier Strecke). Andreas Dresen directs. Part of the Goethe-Institut's series of monthly screenings, it's showing at 1pm on Sunday at the Thai Film Archive in Salaya, Nakhon Pathom, and at 6pm on Tuesday, May 13, in the fifth-floor auditorium of the Bangkok Art and Culture Center. For further details, please contact the Goethe-Institut at (02) 108 8200.

Alliance Française – Winner of the Jury Prize at the 2010 Cannes Film Festival – a historic first for a film from Chad – Un homme qui crie (A Screaming Man) is the story of Adam, a former champion swimmer comfortably spending his declining years looking after a luxury hotel's pool. He's demoted to security guard when his own son is hired to take over as lifeguard. With the country in the midst of a civil war, Adam sees an opportunity to move the younger man out of the picture. Mahamat Saleh Haroun directs and Youssouf Djaoro and Diouc Koma star. The show is at 7pm on Wednesday, May 14 at the Alliance Française de Bangkok.

Take note

There's another new movie-listings website – For now, it appears to only support showtimes for the big multiplex chains, Major Cineplex and SF.

The other startup movie-listings site Moveedoo collates data from the Apex cinemas in Siam Square and House on RCA as well as the mall cineplexes. So Moveedoo has the edge over Cinematic.

Both Moveedoo and Cinematic have arisen since the demise of MovieSeer, which went down the drain last year.

Indie filmmaker Thunska Pansittivorakul has released his taboo-breaking 2010 feature Reincarnate through his Tumblr site, but the actual platform is Vimeo. To watch, you'll have to "follow" Thunska on Vimeo, send him a message and then receive a password. Reincarnate will stream through Sunday, then on Monday, another of his features will be released online for one week only.

Mark your calendar for the European Union Film Festival, which runs from May 23 to June 5 at SF World Cinema at CentralWorld. Highlights include this year's Oscar-winning foreign film, The Great Beauty (La grande bellezza) from Italy. A free festival, this is always a very popular event with thrifty expats and balloon-chasing freeloaders, so be prepared to queue up for an hour or two to guarantee you'll get a decent seat.

And the Foreign Correspondents Club of Thailand has a "double bill" coming up, with Switzerland's La Petite Chambre (The Little Room) on May 19 and from the U.K., Michael Winterbottom's Trishna on May 26. Shows are now at 7pm, not 8 as they've been in the past.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Bangkok Cinema Scene: Movies opening May 1-7, 2014

The Amazing Spider-Man 2: Rise of Electro

Cineplex operators and movie distributors are clearing the decks for this week's release, The Amazing Spider-Man 2, which is very nearly the only new movie making a bow.

This is the second entry in Sony's hastily rebooted Marvel superhero franchise, following the 2012 film. Andrew Garfield returns as the webslinging smart-alec Peter Parker, with Emma Stone as his love interest Gwen Stacey (Garfield and Stone are an item in real life). Also, Sally Field is back as Parker's sassy Aunt May.

Joining the cast this time around is Jamie Foxx as a nerdy electrical engineer for OsCorp who is obsessed with Spider-Man. Through an experiment gone wrong, he transforms himself into the terrifying new supervillain Electro.

Other baddies include the Green Goblin, the villainous alter-ego of Parker's longtime friend Harry Osbourne (Dane DeHaan). Paul Giamatti is a Russian gangster who becomes the hard-charging Rhino.

It's exhausting keeping track of all these Marvel Comics movies. As a film franchise, Spider-Man is licensed to Sony, which from 2002 to 2007 made a trilogy of films directed by Sam Raimi and starring Tobey Maguire. After the Raimi series ended with an overblown whimper – too many villains, not enough Spidey – Sony quickly turned around and rebooted the franchise with 500 Days of Summer director Marc Webb and The Social Network's Garfield in the lead.

Meanwhile, 20th Century Fox is pursuing its own Marvel properties, X-Men and Fantastic Four, with X-Men: Days of Future Past due next month and a reboot of Fantastic Four planned for next year.

Most of the rest of the Marvel properties are under the auspices of the Disney-owned Marvel Studios and its house of cards known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe. These include the interconnected Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America and Thor (plus TV's Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.) as well as the upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy.

Critical reception is generally positive so far. It's in 3D (converted) in some cinemas, including IMAX. Rated G

Also opening

Ragini MMS 2 – Indo-Canadian pornographic actress Sunny Leone returns for this sequel to the 2011 found-footage horror about a failed director who rides a haunted viral video-text message to fame. Parvin Dabas, Kainaz Motivala and Divya Dutta also star. It's in Hindi with English and Thai subtitles at Major Cineplex Sukhumvit, Rama III and Pattaya. Opens Friday.

Sneak preview

Oculus – A young woman becomes convinced that an antique mirror is responsible for the death and misfortune her family has suffered. Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) stars. Critical reception is generally positive. This is in sneak previews, with screenings from around 8 nightly in most multiplexes. It moves to a wider release next week. Rated 15+

Also showing

Chalawan, a short film by Anuchit Ratanatrimongkol of King Mongkut's Institute of Technology Ladkrabang.

Bangkok International Student Film Festival – Now in its fifth year, the Bangkok International Student Film Festival began on Tuesday at the Bangkok Art and Culture Center, with screenings starting at 11am daily. Running until Sunday, there are hundreds of short films, with many competition programs filled with entries by Thai university students. There are also student films from the around the world in the International Competition, and the region's filmmaking talents are featured in the New Asean Filmmaker Spotlight. There is also an entire category for just animation. The screenings are taking place in both the fifth-floor auditorium and the fourth-floor conference room at the BACC. For the schedule and more details, check the festival website or Facebook page.

Alliance Française – Senegalese men in search of better lives take their chances on the high seas in La Pirougue, screening at 7pm on Wednesday, May 7 at the Alliance Française de Bangkok. It's at the intersection of Rama IV and Wireless roads, opposite Lumpini Park in the former location of the Suan Lum Night Bazaar.

Also opening

Having been busy with the just-wrapped Thailand International Destination Film Festival, Friese-Greene Club proprietor Paul Spurrier hadn't yet released a May schedule of screenings at his place. Keep an eye on the website or Facebook for details.

Taboo-breaking indie filmmaker Thunska Pansittivorakul will release two feature films on his Tumblr page, one May 5 and another a week later on May 12. Each will run for one week.